Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Hiroshima pictures

This is the monument to A-bomb victims.

Here are some of the paper cranes that people fold and bring to Hiroshima to remember the bombing and offer hope for the future. They started with a little girl - a leukemia patient - who died before she could complete the 1000 cranes that legend says will grant one wish.


This city was bombed. The first nuclear bomb ever dropped intentionally on people, and my first impression is one of life. The city sits on a river delta, spread beneath steep green hills, and life is everywhere. Shops, restaurants, people laughing in the streets. Incredible that only sixty odd years can bring a city back from a smoking ruin to a bustling metropolis. Come to think of it, it might be more incredible how quickly the city turned from it`s original bustling metropolis into a smoking ruin.

Shoot, I hate to talk about the bombing, but being in Hiroshima, seeing the relics and hearing the stories ripped right to my core. I feel obligated.

The bomb:
The a-bomb killed about 200,000 people. That`s a hard number to wrap your head around, but you can imagine it like this: if you took 200,000 people and stood them in a single file line, chest to back, the line would be 75 miles long.

I always imagined it to be an instant vaporization, but that wasn`t at all the case. Most people died of horrible burns and radiation sickness, watching their bodies slough apart and melt away over a period of days or weeks. Many died years later from the radiation exposure. Cancer, Leukemia. The bomb emitted mostly heat, which burned people but also set the whole city on fire at once. Drawings done by A-bomb survivors depict a raging inferno, consuming wood, cloth, and flesh. Really really indescribably terrible.

New bombs are better bombs:
The bombs used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were primative compared to modern bombs. The biggest bomb ever TESTED was tested by Russia in the 70s, and was 3100 times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb. That one bomb was 17 times more destructive than every bomb and bullet and explosion in all of World War II. And there are thousands of them and even newer bigger ones sitting in silos and subs around the world. Dang.

The new city:
Hiroshima has rebuilt itself as a city dedicated to Peace and anti-nuclear activism. Although the city is fresh and thriving, the bomb is not forgotten. In the center of town they`ve left one of the few buildings that survived the bombing as a reminder. You can see this charred skeletal dome, propped up by modern reinforcements, through the hole in the A-bomb monument.

I could go on and on:
But I won`t -
Bombs are bad.
War is bad.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Shodoshima Pictures...

Shodoshima, in only two colors

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Originally uploaded by Shokkman

They have mirrors for all of the corners on the road, oh my god!

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Originally uploaded by Shokkman

Jiro planting rice!

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Originally uploaded by Shokkman

Now I'm planting rice!

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Originally uploaded by Shokkman

It's the tallest Boddisatva in the world.

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Originally uploaded by Shokkman

This guy kicked butt.

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Originally uploaded by Shokkman

This is a temple.

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Originally uploaded by Shokkman

Japanese people doing some rice planting.

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Originally uploaded by Shokkman

Japanese baby with rice mud. Darling.

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Originally uploaded by Shokkman

This is when I was stirring a pot.

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Originally uploaded by Shokkman

Bonzai tree. At a temple. Sand raked.

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Originally uploaded by Shokkman

An endemic Aracima.

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Originally uploaded by Shokkman

Trees being pretty.

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Originally uploaded by Shokkman

Island being pretty.

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Originally uploaded by Shokkman

Food being delicious.

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Originally uploaded by Shokkman

I played a song for a kindergarden class! Dang, cute.

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Originally uploaded by Shokkman

Jiro and the corner of his wife, Sanae's head.

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Originally uploaded by Shokkman

Island of wonder, Island of mystery.

Shodoshima! What a fine place. Home of olive trees, peaceful intentions, and welcoming country folk. I was there for 10 days, what a whirlwind.

I got to farm - barefoot in rice patty mud, weeding lettuce on hands and knees, chopping weeds with a spinning blade. But dang, the island. It is pretty accurate to imagine it as one of those paradise islands you see in movies - all jutting cliffs spilling over with luscious green. Birdsong. Morning mist. Fantastic. The people too, so welcoming and with such a contagious love of their island home. I was guided by smiling people to ancient temples that were carved into the freaking cliffs, to ridiculously scenic white sand beaches with island views, taken to band practice with a band. It was fantastic. Part of the joy of it too was that I never really had any idea what was happening. Due to my spotty Japanese, I got about 25% of what people were saying, and so just sort of went where people pointed, got in cars with strangers, and wandered at random. Not knowing what was happening had a wonderful effect - I had no idea what the future held, and so was freed from the burden of thinking about it. It let me just think about where I was and what I was doing. A feeling that was easy to maintain in the presence of such friendly people.

Oh, some temple facts:
1) there's a lot of them
2) they're beautifully crafted and mostly very very old, like, oh, one or two thousand years
3) they will often feed you a sample of the local specialty, like delicious noodles or mysterious jelly-like green things
4) many have some act to perform which guarantees hapiness, like drinking water in a cave, or squeezing through a little hole in some rock
5) I met a monk who I swear is as happy and present and friendly as the Dalai Llama. What a dude. Totally mind-bending.

The temples contribute to the general sense of ancientness. Like just up the road, there was a little shrine that, I mean no big deal, just PREDATED WRITTEN HISTORY. Nobody knew how old it was except that it was older than 300AD. Which is really old.

So there's the island. I filled my days eating with the farm family, working in the fields, exploring the island, and helping with dinner. It smelled good and I got a tan.

Tokyo Pictures!

Tokyo at sunset, oooh

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Originally uploaded by Shokkman

Who wants a little doggie!

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Originally uploaded by Shokkman

Don't we all just love to take pictures so much.

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Originally uploaded by Shokkman

Oh my god, ramen.


Ah Japan. I`ve been here twice before, but I`m back again, as a sort of post grad-school break. I`ve come alone, as a way to try to figure myself out, and plan to work on farms and explore the countryside, which I`ve never seen.

I landed in Tokyo two weeks ago, full of movies from the flight and a dazed sense of purpose. It`s bewildering to be dropped into a completely new place, new sounds and smells and words from every direction. My brain had nothing to go on, nothing familiar, no way to filter out any of the information I was being bombarded with. Living like that is incredible - overwhelming, but each moment stretched into infinity as I simultaneously smelled the steam of cooking noodles, heard a thousand mouths spewing Japanese, and tried to read every character I recognized on every one of the thousand signs that surrounded me. Marvelous.

Here I got to stay with a friend (thank you Mimi!), and loved seeing how steeped in history the city is. It`s old. Temples sit, surrounded by park, in the middle of the city. Probably built before the city was more than a town. A five minute walk from them, you can find towering office buildings, multilevel arcades spewing noise and light, and oh, ramen. The finest contrivance of noodle and broth. Pure rich butter on the tongue. Ah.

Tokyo is big. The biggest city on the planet (by a lot). It is, however, ridiculously safe. People here leave bikes unlocked, wallets get returned untouched, I was going to check into a hostel late so they just left the key out for me. Just left it out. Ridiculous. It is a fun city - fast and bright and big - but as I said, I came here to see the countryside.